Four clam digging friends in their 30s struggle on Long Island, as corporate entities manage to buy out the guys' ocean turf, leaving them to fend for themselves in clam barren waters. Armed with less than impressive skill-sets, unless you count Cons' (Josh Hamilton, The House of Yes ) extensive networking via drug dealing, the cold reality of starting over haunts the boys, forcing Hunt (the low key but enjoyable Paul Rudd, The 40-Year-Old Virgin , Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy ) into a soul-searching tailspin.
The big business angle is really just a way to contextualize the routine of these very normal folks for the 90 minutes we share with them. And that's where the film excels, enjoying the quiet melodramas of day-to-day, and the inevitably humorous outbursts borne of tired resignation and too much time to think about how things might've been different.
A period piece comfortably nestled within the summer of 1976, the pic is minimally nostalgic and carries a type of grungy authenticity that keeps the often funny performances and scenarios couched in somber reality, never straying into pastiche or (worse) Napoleon Dynamite -esque mugging.
It's a tough balancing act, and nobody embodies it better than screenwriter Ken Marino, who plays Lozo, the clam-digger-slash-family-man with a bundle of mouths to feed and yet another on the way. Marino's antics are typically BIG, big gestures, big voice and, of course, plenty of the best lines.
As Lozo, he's nothing short of a scene-stealing machine, offering some levity to the quiet drudgeries of the town. But, most impressively, Marino also adds a wonderful emotional anchor as he carries some of the most affectingly raw and even vulnerable moments in Diggers .
Subplots include Hunt quarreling with his sister Gina (another shrugging yet magnetic performance, this one by “ER's” Maura Tierney) over their recently deceased father. Adding to the fire is Hunt's friend Jack (Ron Eldard) who seems to be suddenly moving in on Gina.
Meanwhile, Hunt himself unexpectedly finds a possible romance with a feisty, visiting city slicker named Zoey (Lauren Ambrose, “Six Feet Under”). These, and other observations, are painted in short, true strokes.
The conclusion doesn't satisfy, exactly. While one gets the sense that these small towners' way of life will never quite be the same again, the symbolic gesture of Hunt “moving on” strikes as an easy out.
The charm of the film is in its patient understanding and affection for its characters, though they can't see the forest for the trees. Rudd's final gesture, no matter how ambiguous, betrays the simplicity and tragicomic tone unnecessarily.
In spite of this, and its modest aspirations, Diggers finally settles in as a warm, funny and smart film, most likely to be lost among the sea of blockbuster fare this season.